ICON8 – Part 1: The Beginning


This year we sent Pat Higgins to ICON8 and he was kind enough to write about his experience. Pat heralds from Bear on the east coast, so although it’s not as far a trip as coming from the UK would be, it’s still a hell of a trek going from east to west (Portland) in the USA. – Darren Di Lieto

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to recover from the incredible adventure that was ICON 8. It was an amazing few days (July 9-12) in Portland, OR, filled with informative and inspiring presentations and workshops, meeting like-minded creative professionals and of course, lots of partying. ICON board president Ellen Weinstein pretty much summed it up for me when she said, “It’s a helluva time to be an illustrator.” ICON was a helluva time.

ICON is an illustration conference that is held in a different city every two years. Wednesday and Thursday (July 9th and 10th) included workshops, educator paper presentations and an educator’s symposium which were held at the PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art). On Thursday, I attended the “Adobe Creative Cloud: New Tools for Illustrators” lecture, led by Rufus Deuchler. This was quite informative, as I am a few versions behind on my Adobe products and have yet to switch over to the Creative Cloud. After the lecture I was able to catch a few of the educator presentations for the remainder of the day. They were all great, but the ones that stuck out to me were Robert Meganck’s presentation, “Mapping Color” (for some reason I’m a huge nerd for color and color theory) and Wendy MacNaughton’s Illustrated Journalism presentation. Later on that day I headed back to the Portland Art Museum for the opening ceremony which is too crazy to explain… Here’s a link to a video (http://vimeo.com/100758202). After that, ICON President Ellen Weinstein took the stage and spoke about the illustration industry being a beast that is changing and adapting rather than dying off and going extinct. VIVA LA EVOLUTION! After Ellen’s open speech, the crowd was treated to the keynote speech by Paula Scher. She had a valuable presentation about her years in the industry and showed us what the surreal staircase of creativity looks like.

After the opening ceremonies, the hundreds of attending illustrators, students, art directors, and other assorted oddballs headed down to the first floor of the Portland Art Museum for the ICON 8 Roadshow. The roadshow was an event where attending artists and sponsors had tables set up to promote and sell the work that they do. Being around so much great work made it really hard not to spend all of my money scooping up everything that I saw. After much deliberation I ended up with some prints, comics, post cards, business cards and a stomach full of whiskey. Following the roadshow, I ended up starting a late night by grabbing some pizza and beer with my brother and a few Portland friends at a place called Sizzle Pie. It’s a pretty cool place… All of their pizzas have names like “Police and Thieves”, “D-Beat”, “It’s Always Sunny in Portland” and “Raising Arizona”. After dinner, we split into two groups: the ones that were worried about getting up early and the ones that didn’t want the party to end. Guess which group I was in.


Later that night/morning as my brother and I were walking back to the hotel, we were greeted by a gentleman named Montez who was asking for money. My brother said that he would give the guy a couple bucks, but he wanted an interesting story about Portland in return. Montez explained, “So this guy was ridin’ on a skateboard real fast like. And ran into THIS stop sign right here… BOOMCRACK!”. Pretty lame story, but after that we wandered into a secret figure drawing workshop at a local establishment called Mary’s. It was different than any other figure drawing class I’ve ever attended… First off, it was 2am. Secondly, Khrystaal (the instructor) kept collecting the workshop fee in the form of one dollar bills throughout the night. Weird stuff. I did manage to learn how to draw shoes with clear heels and glitter though!

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will be coming later this week.

Image credits Pat Higgins, to see more of his work visit: illo.cc/25631

UPDATE: Part 2 – hireanillustrator.com/i/blog/882/icon8-part-2

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